Sunday, January 28, 2007

all I have is a sofa and a bunch of books in my storage unit

Ah, I love when real stories are more fascinating that fiction. This story came out late last week, about a woman in Delray (just a couple minutes down I-95 from where I am) who found a mummified baby locked in an old suitcase in her dead parents' storage unit. Here is the most recent follow-up to the story. As I said to a couple other people, it's so bizarre and just grotesque that it seems like something right out of a Faulkner, O'Connor, or Caldwell story. All tragedy, creepiness, social commentary, or ethical issues aside, this is fascinating stuff--or maybe those things aren't beside the point; maybe they are why this is so provacative.

What a cool creative piece that experience could turn into. Yes, I know that is not the point right now, and that maybe there is something wrong with looking at an infant's death as a potential story, but it has to be dealt with somehow, right? She can't act like this didn't happen or like she never found that suitcase. Anyone who was around when this child was born is now dead as well. I'd love to tell that story and fill in any blank spaces with my own imagination, but of course, it's not my story to tell--at least not as a nonfiction piece.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

I want to say...

...that I'm doing surprisingly well without the meds. It's been about three weeks since the last time I had any medication, and that was after a few months of tapering off. And, despite a few occasional spells of crankiness and dizziness/drowsiness (a couple of the lovely physical side-effects of withdrawal) I feel good. Actually, I feel great, because not only am I not going crazy, but I also feel so mentally energized by how well this is going and the prospect that I might actually be ok without the pills.

I want to say all this...but if I do something might prove me wrong.

So I'm only pretending to say it for now, or maybe hypothesizing. The jury is still out.

On a different topic, today is one of my favorite days of the year: Oscar nominations day! Honestly, I truly believed they were next Tuesday, but this is even better. So far, I've only seen one of the best picture nominees, Little Miss Sunshine. I watched that yesterday for the first time, and man was it good. I must buy this DVD so I can watch it all the time. I loved it. Steve Carell was probably my favorite character, but only as a close second to Alan Arkin. The conversation/"advice" session between him and Dwayne in the car was priceless. And, god, the final scene at the pageant was genius...great characterization and also a gem of a stab at the beauty pageant culture. Never thought a striptease could be so funny and sweet. I hope this wins.

But then I still haven't seen the other best pic nominees, or most of the nominees in all categories. I have quite a task ahead of me this next month: lots of movies to watch before the awards.

Finally, I have to brag for a moment. A year ago, I began working with a group of other writers and/or grad students on an upcoming issue of Natural Bridge, the literary journal published by the University of Missouri-St. Louis. The issue we worked on contains a special section on responding to women writers, but the entire issue--not just the special section--is excellent. I was the non-fiction section editor, which meant I weeded through the many essay submissions from across the country and even other parts of the world, chose several finalists, and we critiqued and debated those finalists as a group. I am so proud of the essays we agreed on, as there were times when I had to fight for my choices and defend my stance to accept or leave out certain pieces. The respective fiction and poetry section editors--my colleagues on this issue--did the same with those submissions, and I am sure feel the same pride I now feel. Finally, a year later, our issue is out. I received my two copies of the journal in the mail last week; they are beautiful!

It pains me that there are launch parties and readings in St. Louis these next couple weeks to which several of the authors are traveling so they may read from their contributions to Natural Bridge, and I can't be there. It's ok; I still had a hand in this and couldn't be happier with the way it turned out.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

unmedicated update

I had several days of being in a great mood, and I started to think I was going to get off easy, with no withdrawal side effects. What was I thinking?

Yesterday was not great, and today is shaping up to be pure shit, in terms of my mood. Work started out fabulously yesterday, until the district manager came in for a while, so I was paranoid about every single thing that went on during my shift while he was there--it was exhausting. When I got off work, I was tired to the point where I had a hard time staying awake while driving. That's partly because I had worked the opening shift, which entailed getting up at 4:15, and I hadn't been able to get to sleep until about 1am the night before. Once I got home, I took care of a few things and by 7 I was ready to pass out. I tried to do just that, but it was like i was too tired to sleep. There was also some anxiety mixed in there. For an hour and a half, I'd experience short bursts of sleep, followed by a jolting memory or worry from the day, which prevented me from really falling asleep. Eventually, I got tired of this battle, so I just got back out of bed and suddenly had tons of energy. Nervous energy, though. I replied to some emails that had been stacking up and then I tried to write. But I couldn't focus on one thing. I probably started three different pieces of writing last night within a couple hours time. As I told a friend, it wasn't writers block as much as writers ADD. And during it, I was physically shaky. Nervous, jittery, like I'd had way too much caffeine (which I hadn't). Finally around 1am,, I somehow managed to fall asleep and I stayed that way until 10 this morning.

But I'm crankier than hell today. I can't hold one single thought in my mind for more than about 10 seconds, and I want to pack up my car and start driving away from florida now, right this minute. Because when I'm cranky, dissatisfied, or anxious about anything, my instinct is to go away from it. The problem here, of course, is that I don't know exactly what is making me jittery, anxious, and cranky---other than the lack of meds in my system. How do I ignore this and convince my body to understand it's not really life, but rather a chemical change in my system and to just relax, ignore it, and be sure everything is ok?

But maybe I shouldn't relax and believe everything is ok. Maybe I've become too complacent since I moved here, and I need to feel this anxious drive to move on.

Friday, January 12, 2007

sanctioned addiction

It's been a while. And I have no real excuse other than the fact that I have been busy and haven't really felt like making time to blog. I have been writing, but nothing I want to share with the internet world, though some of it I hope to turn into something I would someday like other people to read.

I've officially been promoted to assistant manager at work, which is exciting. The interview for it was tough: about 2.5 hours of detailed question-answer-follow-up-question-follow-up-answer discussion with three people. But I passed and the promotion went into effect this past Monday.

Otherwise, I've made a decision. I'm going to stop taking my antidepressants. I have never talked much about them here on my blog, so I'll explain. Several years ago, I realized that I was dealing with and probably always have dealt with depression, possibly manic-depression, though it had always been undiagnosed and written off as mere moodiness. I saw a therapist once every couple weeks for a while, and then I decided, after much reading and discussion with my therapist, doctor, then-husband, and my journal to start taking anti-depressants. It was not a decision I came to lightly, though one particularly shitty weekend was sort of the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back.

I was first put on a very low dose of lexapro. After several months, when I felt it wasn't working, that dose was increased. I felt better. Not perfect, but stable and less "moody" and more productive and functional. About a year later, I stopped the therapy, but continued with the meds. Some time after that, I encountered a weird plateau with the meds, where they just simply stopped working, as if I had built up a tolerance. My doc thought about upping my dose, but neither of us liked that idea much. So instead, she kept my dose of lexapro the same but supplemented it with a low dose of wellbutrin. It was lovely, and I felt some relief again. But of course, maybe a year later I hit another platuea and the doc and I kept the meds the same but played with the doses.

Anyway...this process has been ongoing for years now, and I'm tired of it. Granted, a lot of changes have taken place in my life from the time I first started meds to now. A lot of ups and downs, which certainly helped trigger the chemical side of this so-called mood-disorder. I've been dealing with that non-chemical side of it all as well, in non-medical ways, such as choosing a different career path when I realized I hated my job so much, I'd rather have been sick than go to work. And by getting away from a life in which I felt miserable and paralyzed, by coming down here, where I could rebuild and then move on again. But I can't help wondering, to what degree have my meds helped or hindered my choices, my efforts to make my life what I want it to be?

I hate being dependent on mood drugs such as these, and I have wanted to stop for a long time now. Every few months, I admit, I play with my dose without the consent of my doctor. I'll just decide I don't feel like taking the pills for a few days, or I will pretend I forgot, because I never wanted to admit to how shitty it feels to rely on them so much. However, as some of you have witnessed, Heather without her meds can be a bad bad thing. Not everybody understands depression, myself included; it's a complicated, spongy issue. For one thing, as I've mentioned here before, I am certain that I was misdiagnosed and rather than depression, my problem is manic-depression (bipolar disorder). This could be why it's been a nonstop struggle to get the right meds and the right doses.

Regardless, I want to stop being at the mercy of drugs for my emotional stability. Several weeks ago, I started to slowly wean myself. I started to take my pills only every other day, rather than every day. And then after a week or so of that, I cut my dose in half. Then, last week, I stopped altogether. It hasn't been a sudden halt, which I've done before and is horrible. Rather, I've stopped the pills slowly, so as to minimize the withdrawal--which is usually unpleasant to say the least. It hasn't been bad. I have been somewhat anti-social throughout this, because I need time and space to deal with potential side effects. It's no shock that a side-effect of altering--or stopping--antidepressants is depression. One of the big challenges is deciphering whether any down moods are real depression or just a side effect of the withdrawal, a result of stopping the meds that have been in my system for years now. If it's just a side effect, I know that once this withdrawal period is over, the depression may improve, but not if that depression is real depression, not just the withdrawal. However, the biggest challenge is figuring out whether my good moods now are truly good moods or manic episodes. The manic side of manic depression is the hardest, because it's great and you live for it. Anyone who's ever experienced this knows what I'm talking about. These moods are so amazing that it's just about worth the down days to get these high days. My energy, optimism, and ambition on those days are uncontainable, almost to a dillusional degree. I've been having a couple days like that now, and I love it, but I don't trust it because I am sure that right around the corner is a mood crash.

I want to get through the withdrawal, to get the pills out of my system completely so that I can step back and decide in a fully unmedicated state how to best handle my mood issues. Maybe I should stick with the meds. But if that's the case, I need different meds. Or maybe I'll see that I can find non-chemical ways to deal with mood swings. I don't know. It could be miserable, but it could be great. It could be a big nothing, or it could be cathartic. Whatever it is, I need to experience it for a while so I can decide what to do next, figure out what I need and what I want in terms of this so-called mood-disorder.

This is a little scary. I don't want to experience the kind of depression I've felt before. But I also don't want to be addicted to these pills. Not unless I discover it's the only way for me to get by. I'm going to go forward with this, though, and find out what happens. I don't want to need the pills anymore, but I'll just wait and see.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

bad blogger

Oh blog, I've been ignoring you.

I have so many things to write here, but I have been busy--with work, life, other writing, and the chaos that is my thought process. I wish I could sit here and blog for hours right now, but I can't. However, I will do this tomorrow evening. I promise.

For now, good night.